Coming of Age in African Literature

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This course will focus on African literature of the late colonial and postcolonial periods. Our main concern will be the work of writers from formerly colonized countries, writers who have contributed to the burgeoning field that is variously referred to as “postcolonial” or “third world” literature. We will focus on coming of age in at least two ways. First, many of the books we will read feature youthful protagonists who face the challenges of growing up amid difficult social and political circumstances. Second, we will study the coming of age of modern African literature itself.

Although the subject of our study is literature, our approach will be interdisciplinary. While reading the works to appreciate their literary qualities—artistic devices in character development such as shifting points of view, sarcastic humor, irony, and stream of consciousness; and in plot development such as suspense, foreshadowing, symbolism, and extended metaphor—we will also attempt to view them as products of the cultures and the social and political circumstances that produced them. In other words, we will examine the literary works as complex expressions of their contexts, as well as indicators of the values and world views of the societies in which they were composed. We will explore ways in which the writings reflect particular issues and themes related to the colonial and postcolonial African experience.

The course will equip students who have a passion for literature with skills to enable them make accurate judgments of both style and meaning in African texts of different forms, including novels, short stories, poetry and drama. We will be studying classic works of African literature by authors such as Chinua Achebe, Camara Laye, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Wole Soyinka, as well as more recent works by writers like Chimamanda Adichie, Tsisti Dangaremba, Leslie Nneka Arimah and Taiye Selasi.

• To provide an introduction to the study of colonial and postcolonial African literature

• To encourage a non-western perspective on the subject matter of the course

• To offer an interdisciplinary approach to the study of literature (i.e. to consider literature from political, social, and historical—as well as literary—perspectives)

• To provide you with a seminar-type setting in which to explore the subject matter in a hands-on, interactive, participatory style. This seminar approach will help you to develop these skills:

—Critical thinking, especially interpreting and evaluating literary texts
—Writing, especially about literature
—Discussion skills

Prerequisites: This course has no prerequisites except a passion for literature.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEEL0929
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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